William Hill investor pushing for sale

Ashley Coates
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The high street betting chain, William Hill, is being considered as a potential target for acquisition, according to reports in the Sunday Times.

Parvus Asset Management has been pushing for a sale of William Hill for four months, according to sources in the City. The Mayfair-based hedge fund is William Hill’s biggest single shareholder, with a 14 per cent stake in the business. Last year, Parvus also warned against the bookie’s acquisition of Amaya, which owns the PokerStars website. William Hill did not want to comment on the story.

William Hill announced it had been hit by “customer friendly” football and horse-racing results at the end of last year, lowering the group’s profit for 2016 by £20m.

Group chief executive, Philip Bowcock was upbeat about the company’s fortunes for the year ahead: "With key underlying trends continuing to be positive, the recent run of sporting results have not changed our confidence in a better performance in 2017," he said.

The UK’s bookies have recently been under pressure from MPs to change the way their high street outlets operate.

William Hill’s shares fell 5.7 per cent at the end of last month as UBS warned on the prospect of a regulatory clampdown on high street gambling. In addition to questioning the profitability of William Hill’s online operations, the bank warned that reducing the maximum single bid allowed on a fixed odds betting terminal from £100 to £10 would cut William Hill’s profits by up to 74 per cent.

MPs that form part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on fixed odds betting terminals have gone further, arguing that the maximum single bid should be reduced to £2.

Founded in 1934, William Hill now has 2,300 licenced betting offices across the country and employs 16,000 people. The company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002. William Hill’s share price closed at 272.90p on Friday.

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